twitter youtube facebook linkedin email
Connect with:



Colin Smith
September 29, 2016

Note: This blog post was originally created by Ashley Bachar at Autodesk.

Have you ever had dreams of becoming an architect? Do you love to draw street scenes that incorporate buildings? I created a quick guide on how to draw a full architectural street scene like a speedy master. Don’t worry, architectural drawing isn’t as hard as it looks. It’s all about paying attention to the world around you and capturing the essential details to create accurate real-life scenery. This quick guide will get you drawing beautifully articulate and expressive architectural street scenes. Before you know it you’ll be sketching panoramic views of majestic buildings and scenery just like the pros.

Know your architectural styles

It’s always hard to visualize the full composition of an architectural street scene right off the top of your head. It is important to be considerate with every detail in your drawing for it to make sense. The first step to drawing a life-like street scene is figuring out what mood or atmosphere you want to showcase in your architectural street scene.

Let’s start with the buildings. There are several types of building styles gathered together under three main branches: Classic, Modern, and Post-Modern. You can do some web surfing research (the Royal Institute of British Architects site is a great place to start), find what makes each style unique, and do some thumbnail sketches.

Classic style architecture includes buildings decked in ornamentation like the buildings of ancient Greece and Rome. You might want to throw in some columns, arched windows, decorative pediments, domes, and distinctive classical moulding.

Modernist style architecture is the complete opposite. It features un-ornamented boxes that are very rigid and volumetric. Think boxes on boxes on boxes, and you can’t go wrong with this style.

Postmodern architecture is known for its eccentric details. Postmodern architecture plays with the ideas of both classic and modern architecture. It borrows from the previous styles, often creating strange and bizarre buildings that can combine the lessons of the previous styles.

Adding your elements

Next are the characterized elements that tell the story of your scene. Take a walk around your neighbourhood and observe the buildings around you. You can draw inspiration from the places around you by observing the elements that are significant to a place in real life. Here are a few examples of details to consider in various settings:

Cafe Scene: A cafe scene might include tables and chairs, outdoor patio umbrellas, plant pots.


Boardwalk Scene: Boardwalk scenes can include large walkways, bicycles, trees, beach houses, and a sweet view of the ocean.

Marketplace: A marketplace scene might have canopies, food stands, tables, hanging baskets, and busy people.

Using the Perspective Guides tool

Say goodbye to long nights with your scale ruler. SketchBook Pro takes the pain out of drawing perfectly straight conserving lines with the Perspective Guides tool. It features a variety of different modes that I strongly suggest you try out, including 1-point, 2-point, 3-point, and fish-eye modes. I find this tool is great for laying down the building outlines and getting your proportions on point. Also bid a sweet farewell to shifting rulers and accidental finger tracing (yeah, we’ve all done it). The perspective tool helps you accurately sketch buildings and landscapes without weird, wonky lines or distortion.

The layer technique

Drawing a full architectural street scene if you’ve never done it might seem like an overwhelming task. You have to draw buildings and landscape, furniture and people. The layer technique is a way that I find helps me organize my thoughts without getting majorly overwhelmed by the abundance of lines. Breaking down your scene into layers will help you plan out your composition without ruining the other elements of your architectural scene. Not to mention you can make quick and easy changes or even erase a layer completely if don’t like what it looks like. I will be using the 1-point perspective tool for this tutorial.

Step 1: Outline building shapes

Start with the outline of your background buildings. Roughly block out where you want the buildings to go. A trick that I find useful at this step is drawing a line slightly above the horizon line as a reference eye level. I will unleash its power in the next few steps.

Don’t forget the eye-line layer. You’re going to want that eye-line.

Step 2: Add facades

Next, begin to fill in your building facades. Remember that line we drew? It is the key to success when drawing street scenes. It acts as a directional delineator to keep you from getting confused as you draw in more shapes. Everything above the line will slope upwards, and everything below will slope down. When deciding where to add in your windows and doors, use the eye line as a reference for heights. Imagine a person standing. If the door height slopes down below the eye line, realistically it will be impossible for a person to walk though that door without crouching or hurting their neck. Unless you are drawing a funhouse style drawing, you will want to pay attention and make sure there is enough head space so you don’t accidentally draw giant people.

Everything above the eye line slopes up; everything below slopes down. Handy, huh?

Step 3: Add natural elements

Add in some lush greenery like trees, bushes, planters, and flowers. You can turn down the opacity of the background to help you visualize how your elements will fit into the scene.

Step 4: Add people

Add life by drawing in outlines of people in your scene. You want to align all the heads of the people at eye level to maintain your perspective. Change the sizes of the people to create the illusion that some people are closer to you or father away. The smaller people appear to be much farther away that the larger people. Be sure to consider the movements of people in a space by adding people who are walking, sitting, or gathering around at a spot.

Step 5: Blocking — erase where layers overlap

This is where working in layers becomes handy. Turn on and layer all your elements and erase lines that overlap. If you are looking for a cleaner sketch, you can turn down the opacities of your rough layers and trace over the final compositional lines you want to keep.

Step 6: Add colour

Once you are done erasing or tracing, add in shade and shadow and begin to colour your drawing. You can create focal pints by colouring in the specific layer you want to highlight. I personally like to leave the people in white in order for them to stand out and emphasize movement in the architectural street scene.

The final result

And voila! I hope this guide makes drawing architectural street scenes a lot easier for you. Remember practice makes perfect!

Featured Links

Colin Smith

Colin is a Sr. Product Manager on the Automotive and Conceptual Design Team at Autodesk. During his 25-year career in the CAD industry he has worked in customer support, training, consulting and as a product manager for Alias and Fusion 360. Currently, he works on SketchBook Pro and Create VR and is based in Toronto, Canada.